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Harry's adventures put local readers under a spell

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:49 PM

Once British author J.K. Rowling puts her spell on you, it's hard to resist the adventures of Hogwarts student Harry Potter, his classmates, teachers and enemies. Just ask North Fairfield resident Chantal DeYoe and English teacher Kellie Pancost, of Wakeman.

DeYoe first ignored the Potter books, as she admittedly does to "most things that are wildly popular, actually." Her curiosity was peaked when she saw a TV character who was a closet Potter fan.

"I thought to myself, 'Wow. This really has pervaded our culture,'" she said.

She read her first Potter book while getting ready to travel home to Kansas to visit her family.

"I was shopping at Sam's Club and browsing the book section for something to keep me occupied during the drive. On a whim, I picked up the first Potter book," DeYoe explained.

"Needless to say, we had to find a bookstore along the way so I could get the second and the third."

Like DeYoe, Pancost hadn't read the books before getting hooked. The Vermilion High School teacher had seen and enjoyed the first four films, but then wondered why she needed to read Rowling's novels.

Her attitude changed during an after-school "fiction club" she teaches when the students were playing a Harry Potter trivia game.

"I was getting slaughtered," Pancost, 34, said.

"One of the kids finally asked (me), 'Haven't you ever read these?' I explained that I had seen the movies, but hadn't yet read the books. They were absolutely appalled and swore not to talk to me until I at least read the first one."

Pancost started and finished the first book, about 320 pages long, over the course of one weekend.

"As great of a job as they did with the movies, nothing can compare to Rowling's storytelling," she said.

The veteran teacher describes the Harry Potter books as classic fantasy literature, in which "the unsuspecting hero has a quest that must be completed and only he can do it." Pancost also said the series' message of Potter having the potential to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort shows that everyone has "some 'magical' power deep inside."

"To me, that's the whole meaning of life," she explained. "We might not know what that (specific) purpose is or how we will accomplish it, but it will all come together in the end."

Besides the overall messages of love and empowerment, Pancost loves how influential the books have been.

"As an English teacher, I love that these books got a whole generation excited about reading. I can refer to them in class and 90 percent of the kids will know what I'm talking about," she said.

DeYoe finds the depth and tightness of Rowling's plot lines and her humor the most appealing. Some of the redeeming messages she has found are all people make mistakes and the need to persevere.

"As a Christian, the biggest message I see in these books is that we all have a role to play in the battle of good versus evil. No one person can carry the load. We need to stand together and support one another, as Harry and his friends do for each other," she said.

The 39-year-old North Fairfield woman wants to know how she could possibly say good-bye to all of the characters.

"Thank goodness I can reread the books if I want to, if I start missing the intriguing, thought-provoking and highly amusing world Rowling has created," DeYoe said.

Pancost said one of the problems of reading as fast as she does is the entire captivating experience is over in a matter of hours.

"For a while, I'll be completely absorbed in the world of Harry. But then, it will all end," she said.

"That's the saddest part of reading a series. I love getting to know the characters; they're all like good friends. But when it's over, that's it. There'll be no new adventures to be a part of."

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